Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode 19

Nothing makes up for a mediocre episode quite like a Rarity episode, and this one does not disappoint.
A Dog and Pony Show
Rarity puts the finishing touches on a silhouetted outfit just as a customer enters her shop.  And not just any customer, either, but the one and only Sapphire Shores: the Pony of Pop!  It seems that she's heard all about Rarity and her designs, and she's here to get some sensational outfits for her upcoming tour.  Rarity is simply beside herself over Sapphire Shores knowing her name (and letting her call her Sapphire), but she keeps her cool and shows her the just-finished gemstone-encrusted outfit.  With that much sparkle, Sapphire is won over in an instant, not only buying the outfit on the spot, but ordering five more in different colors.  And wouldn't you know it, Rarity just used the last of her gemstones on the one outfit.  The thought of all the work entailed in making five more gem-encrusted outfits causes Rarity to swoon, but Sapphire is used to ponies fainting in her presence and laughs it off.
Spike, of course, needs no encouragement to help out Rarity, as they search the rocky cliffs outside of Ponyville.  Rarity's cutie mark, you see, doesn't just represent her desire for the finer things in life, but indicates her magical talent as well: finding gems.  Using her horn as a dowsing rod, she's able to find cachets of gems, which Spike then digs up.  And has to be reminded not to eat.  While Rarity did promise him a few for snacks, she's going to need all the jewels she can get her hooves on for five more outfits.  Once the wagon is loaded up, Rarity plucks out the best jewel and gives it to Spike, "from me to you."  Though he's been drooling over the precious stones all day, Spike can't bring himself to eat a gift from his beloved Rarity.
As their excavation continues, figures hiding in the bushes catch sight of Spike with the wagon full of gems, and plot to capture him for their own gem-hunting use.  Once they spot Rarity's gem-finding ability, though, they switch their plans accordingly.  Just as Rarity's about to call it a day, she suddenly picks up a larger-than-normal reading, though it indicates the jewels are in a tree.  But the jewels are attached to a dog, one of the nefarious figures plotting against Rarity, who introduces himself as a Diamond Dog, and, when his two associates are in position, announces their intent to capture Rarity.  Spike puts up a good fight, but only manages to slow down two of the dogs for a short time, and soon Rarity is caught and taken down a large hole.  Spike lets loose a Big No before heading back to town to get help.
Unable to handle what just happened, Spike can only gibber in front of the others, but he gets enough information out that they can get started.  Once he's able to breathe again, Spike fills them in on the whole "Rarity captured and carried down a hole" situation.  Sounds easy enough to rectify, but not so fast!  The Diamond Dogs anticipated that their kidnapping wouldn't go over so well, and filled the whole area with holes.  On top of that, once they see that Rarity's friends have arrived, they start filling the holes back up.  Try as the ponies might, they just can't get in.  All the dirt makes Applejack think of the horror Rarity, neat freak that she is, must be going through, and she proposes they dig through so they can save their friend.  But the Diamond Dogs are still around, ready to stop the ponies from digging and undermining their attempts to fight back. Seeing the dogs in person, the other ponies can only imagine how terrified Rarity must be, but what can they do?
Spike spots a lone neglected hole and comes up with a plan!  Pulling out the gem Rarity gave him, he lowers it down the hole with a fishing rod, hoping the dogs will take the bait.  While he waits, he has an epic dream sequence of himself as Sir Spike, hunky knight, fighting off the dogs and rescuing the fair damsel Rarity.  Before he can get to the True Love's Kiss part, though, there's a pull on the line.  A pull so strong that all the ponies end up being dragged along into the caverns deep beneath the earth.  Spike exults at his plan working, until Twilight points out the myriads of cavernways they have to choose from, whereupon he lets out another Big No.  But there's no helping it, they'll just have to figure out which way Rarity went somehow.  Spike deduces that the dogs probably took Rarity down the most gem-filled tunnel., But as Twilight points out, finding gems is Rarity's special talent, so how're they supposed to know which one that is?  So Spike counterpoints that Twilight's special talent is magic itself, so she should be able to copy the spell Rarity uses.  Fortunately, Rarity showed Twilight how it was done some time ago, and sure enough, she's able to do it.  Rarity, here they come!
Speaking of Rarity, she at first cowers before the Diamond Dogs, but when she hears that they want her to find gems, she becomes rather nonchalant about the whole thing.  She finds them a plot filled with jewels, marks it with an X, and tries to get them to show her the way out.  But the dogs insist she dig up the gems as well, ordering her at spearpoint.  So she digs, in a scraping at the ground kind of way, complaining about not wanting to ruin her pony-pedi.  Baffled by this, the lead dog just has the grunt dogs dig up the gems instead, as Rarity smiles to herself.  If she won't dig, though, she'll have to haul the cart of jewels, and the other two dogs place her in the harness as she complains about their scruffy nails as they do.  Her complaining is too much for the lead dog, but despite insults against his breath, he sets Rarity to work.  And so Rarity pulls the cart and marks the location of jewels, never once shutting up about the conditions she has to put up with, including being referred to as "pony."  It's "Miss Rarity," if you please.
Finally the lead dog has enough of her "whining," and says so, to Rarity's annoyance.  After all, she was complaining, not whining, and takes it upon herself to show them the difference.  This is the final straw for the Diamond Dogs, their sensitive dog ears unable to handle the screeching coming from Rarity's mouth, and the leader promises to do "anything" to get her to stop.  And so in short order, the cavern is decorated with banners and ribbons, Rarity is fanned while drinking from a jeweled goblet, and the Diamond Dogs are pulling the carts.  Once peace and quiet has settled in, however, the lead dog realizes the absurdity of them being bossed around by a mere pony, and decides to brave the awful noises she makes.  He hooks Rarity up to the harness again, slaps her behind, saying, "Hiyah, mule!"  Bad move.  "Did you just call me a mule?" Rarity asks, her eyes filling with tears.  And before anyone knows what's going on, Rarity is prostrate on the ground, crying about how the dogs think she's ugly and never liked her, going on and on despite the dogs' attempts to placate her.
All Rarity's crying filter's down the tunnel to where Spike and the others are racing to her rescue.  Once they reach the door to the room where Rarity is being held, however, they are beset by the grunt dogs, who are foolish enough to think they've just been handed a lot of work horses.  Applejack immediately starts bucking her "rider," and the others follow her example, sending the grunts running in no time flat.  With the grunts taken care of, and Rarity just beyond the door, Spike plucks a stalactite for a makeshift lance and...
Spike: Hiho, Twilight, away!
Twilight: And just what do you think you're doing?
Spike: Please, Twilight, just give me this.
Twilight: *sigh* Fine.
And so Spike and Twilight bust through the door, only to find the Diamond Dogs running toward them, begging to be saved from Rarity.  Seeing that Rarity is safe, Spike rushes in for a hug, and Rarity commends her friends for their good timing.  It seems that she negotiated a leaving fee, namely, all the gems she was forced to find for the Diamond Dogs, and that fills quite a few carts.  As the ponies leave, Rarity's friends are amazed that she was able to trick the dogs into letting her go, but Rarity reminds them that just because she's a lady doesn't mean she can't hold her own.  Twilight's excited about the report she'll write to Princess Celestia on what she's learned from Rarity: being ladylike does not equal weak, and a quick wit is sometimes a better asset than the strongest muscles.  Spike, meanwhile, is just glad that there's more than enough gems for the outfits and snacks.

Rarity truly rocked in this episode, using her wiles to get what she wanted from the dogs.  There were a lot of little clever things I liked in this episode, like the lead Diamond Dog using a dog whistle in Spike's fantasy to summon the grunts.  And the Diamond Dogs themselves are a reference to a song of the same name by David Bowie, with the lyrics, "The diamond dogs are poachers, and they hide behind trees."  This episode also seems to be more in line with the old G1 series, having villains that seem like a credible threat, but are ineffectual when you get right down to it.
One thing that bugs me, though: Spike theorizes the dogs have taken Rarity down the tunnel with the most gems, and sure enough, that's how they find her, but A. how would the dogs know where the most gems are, since that's what they kidnapped Rarity for, and B. even if they did know, wouldn't that tunnel now have the least gems?

Misc. Screenshots
Impress me, says Sapphire Shores
Like a dog

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Image from The Lorax

As you may or may not know, the same folks responsible for this past summer's Despicable Me are working on a film version of The Lorax, and they recently released an image from the upcoming film, seen above.  Now is it just me, or does that seem to be a female version of Pontoffel Pock?  Seriously, the hair, the upturned nose, the same friggin shirt.  There isn't any word on who this character is yet (the movie doesn't come out until next May), but a first look from USA Today points toward her being a character named Audrey.   As far as I'm concerned, she's the daughter of Pontofel and Neepha Pheepha (apparently, that's how her name is spelled), though I doubt this will be brought up in the movie.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Pinkie Pie as Pegasus

Lauren Faust has donated sketches from her original pitch of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to help raise money to help Japan, revealing that Pinkie Pie was originally going to be a pegasus.  This explains so much, really, about Pinkie Pie's character, such as why she's always popping up in odd places.  If Hasbro had let Pinkie Pie stay a pegasus, Fluttershy would have been an earth pony, which explains why she's the odd duck pegasus who prefers to stay on the ground and care for the forest animals.
This also explains why Pinkie Pie had wings in one image from the licensing style guide:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episodes Seventeen and Eighteen

Since the next two episodes focus on the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who haven't been seen since episode 12, I figured I'd write them both up together.  Both episodes feature rockin' songs and lots of crusading for cutie marks.

Stare Master
Sweetie Belle watches as Rarity (who is apparently her older sister) runs around her dress shop in an absolute tizzy, trying to figure out how she'll get her latest order finished on time.  Sweetie Belle offers to help, but Rarity tells her to just stay in the corner.  While this may seem mean, Sweetie Belle's attempt to help by grabbing a spool of ribbon instantly creates a calamitous chain of destruction throughout the shop, proving Rarity's request a rather sensible one.  Having lost a lot of time cleaning up the mess, Rarity balks at the sound of the doorbell, but it's just Fluttershy, returning Opalescence from her grooming appointment.  It seems that Fluttershy is the only one who can groom the kitty without getting swiped at, and Rarity wonders if this is due to "the stare" (last seen in Dragonshy).  Fluttershy insists that she doesn't actually control when that happens; she's just good with animals.  Rarity would love for Fluttershy to stay, but she's just got too much work, what with the twenty gold-silk-lined robes she needs to finish by the next day.
Hearing this, Fluttershy starts to leave, but is stopped by the arrival of the other two members of the CMC, Apple Bloom and Scootaloo.  It seems Rarity offered to host a sleepover for them, and they plan to use the time to sniff out their cutie marks.  To aid in their quest, Sweetie Belle shows off the capes she made for them, lined with gold silk.  The same gold silk Rarity was going to use for her special robes, in fact.  With the last of the silk ruined, Rarity has even more work to do, meaning the sleepover is cancelled.  Seeing the Crusaders so downcast about this, Fluttershy offers to let them have the sleepover at her place.  Rarity tries to dissuade her, thinking the girls too rambunctious for the shy pegasus to handle, but Fluttershy cites her skills with animals, and after much back and forth, Rarity agrees to let her sister switch sleepover locations.  With a triumphant cheer, the girls take off for Fluttershy's cottage, with Fluttershy trailing behind.
On the way to her cottage, Fluttershy imagines how the sleepover will go, with tea parties, tail-braiding, and coloring, though the way the girls whip past Twilight Sparkle, it seems that Fluttershy may have the completely wrong idea.  Twilight, meanwhile, is on her way to Zecora's for some tea, and Fluttershy worries about her going through the Everfree Forest alone.  Twilight, on the other hand, worries for Fluttershy watching the CMC, but they go their separate ways.
As night falls, the CMC marvel at Fluttershy's cottage, zipping around and asking questions a mile a minute.  Angel wisely vacates the premises.  Since the aim of their sleepover is to get their cutie marks, they pooh-pooh Fluttershy's tea party invitation and set their sights on an adventure in the Everfree Forest, which lies not too far from Fluttershy's cottage.  Fluttershy instantly puts the kibosh on this, warning the girls of the monsters and strange creatures therein.  Sweetie Belle suggests taking Fluttershy as a chaperone, on the off-chance that their life's ambition is to catch said strange creatures.  Fortunately for Fluttershy, the Crusaders are satisfied with just playing Creature Catcher in the house, though the game does end with a broken table.  But no worries, it's just a chance for the CMC to try their hooves at carpentry!  Which involves head mirrors and stethoscopes, for some reason.
Well, a hammer cutie mark is definitely ruled out.  Fluttershy hopes for an end to cutie mark crusading and tries to get the girls to play The Quiet Game with her.  The CMC quickly "lose" and decide to try being coal-miners instead.  Fluttershy shuts this idea down pretty quickly, bringing up the subject of bedtime.  The girls insist there's plenty of crusading still to be done, especially since they haven't used their capes yet, but Fluttershy beseeches them to wait until the light of day, and the girls grudgingly give in.  Fluttershy tucks them in and starts to sing a lullaby, but when she invites Sweetie Belle to join in, she's unprepared for the gospel spin Sweetie Belle puts on it, nor for how loud one small unicorn can get.  So loud, in fact, that she wakes up the chickens in the henhouse outside.
Before Fluttershy can even turn around, the girls are out of bed and investigating the chickens.  Fluttershy quickly follows after, but has little luck rounding up the girls or the chickens.  Until, that is, she lets out an uncharacteristically terse "Girls!" that stops both crusaders and hens in their tracks.  She's then able to round up the chickens perfectly fine, though it takes "the stare" to get them back in the henhouse.  With that taken care of, she sends the girls back to bed, and though they promise to wait until morning, the moment she's out of earshot, they're already planning their next crusade.
A peek outside reveals a hole in the wire around the henhouse, and chicken tracks heading to the Everfree forest.  Their course of action is clear: put on their capes, sneak past Fluttershy, follow the tracks, and rescue the chicken.   Part one of the plan works perfectly, complete with a none-the-wiser Fluttershy commenting how nothing will get past her.  It isn't until much later that Fluttershy realizes that things are a little too quiet around the cottage, and sure enough, finds the bed empty.  She checks the yard and the henhouse, finding no girls, and also a missing chicken (named Elizabeak).  Following both sets of tracks, she realizes, much to her horror, that they must have gone into the Everfree forest!  As she girds her loins to follow after them, she realizes that both she and the girls have gotten themselves into situations they weren't prepared for.
The girls run into a hitch when it comes to the last part of their plan, as the chicken is nowhere to be found.  They call, and bicker, making no efforts to keep the more deadly creatures of the forest from knowing where they are.  Fluttershy, on the other hand, manages to freak out at the merest twig and tree, eventually running for her life from nothing in particular.  As she runs, she catches sight of Twilight Sparkle in the distance and heads for her friend, relieved to see a familiar face and to hopefully get some help finding the girls.  However, as the clouds uncover the moon, Fluttershy sees that Twilight has been turned to stone, obviously the work of a cockatrice!
With a new sense of urgency, Fluttershy takes wing to find the girls, which isn't too hard, what with all their bickering.  She tries to herd them out of the forest, explaining about the cockatrice, but it's no good.  A creature with the head of a chicken and the body of a snake doesn't sound too frightening to the girls, and they continue into the forest.  Fluttershy tries to explain about the turining-to-stone part, but before she can get that out, Elizabeak appears, and the girls take off after her.  Seeing two chickens in the bushes, the girls completely forget about Fluttershy's description of the cockatrice and go for both of them.  And are thoroughly freaked out when they witness the cockatrice wending its way out of the bushes on its snake body.  The cockatrice makes short work of Elizabeak, and sets its sights on the girls, who run off, screaming.  They literally stumble onto the stone Twilight, which just makes them freak out more, just as Fluttershy finds them again.  The girls are too panicked to listen to Fluttershy, until she suddenly orders them to stay behind her NOW.  For you see, all that screaming led the cockatrice straight to them.  It bears down on Fluttershy, who keeps her eyes covered, but can't help sneaking a peek at the frightened young ponies behind her.  This sends her into Alpha Mode, and she does the unthinkable: she stares down a cockatrice.  As she lectures the monster, it sets its stone stare on her, but even turning into stone is not going to stop Fluttershy once she's in the zone.  With her own stare in full effect, she overpowers the cockatrice's stare and forces it to change Elizabeak and Twilight back to normal.
Having now seen Fluttershy's "stare" in action, the CMC have a new-found respect for the pegasus, dubbing her the "stare master."  Ha ha.  The girls apologize for sneaking out and promise to listen to her from now on. Fluttershy jokes that she'll just use "the stare" on them if they don't, but no one laughs until she does.  The next day, as the CMC play outside, Fluttershy fills Twilight in on the whole story of what happened that night, which Twilight writes up as a letter to the princess (not her report). Fluttershy learned a lesson this time around, though it wasn't particularly friendship-related: don't bite off more than you can chew, full stop.  As did Rarity, who just barely managed to make all the robes in time.  She shows up to pick up the girls, but can't get them to listen to her.  One quiet word from Fluttershy, however, and they snap to attention, much to Rarity's confusion.  Fluttershy chalks it up to her being as good with kids as she is animals (and Twilight keeps her secret).  Which reminds Rarity, she needs a hand with Opal.  Not sure how she could forget in the first place, since the cat is latched onto her good and tight.  Ouch.

This is the first episode where the lesson isn't actually given in report form, which is a nice change.  Truth be told, I was wondering how it was going to be handled, considering that Twilight reporting on Apple Bloom's lesson in Call of the Cutie was a little awkward.  Not quite sure how I feel about Sweetie Belle being Rarity's sister, though.  Rarity always struck me as an only child, but then again, if she's already an adult while Sweetie Belle is still in grade school, then there's enough of an age gap to make it make sense.  Speaking of Sweetie Belle, I absolutely loved her going all diva on Fluttershy's lullaby.  Best part of the episode, seriously. Though the cockatrice was pretty cool, too.

Misc. Screenshots:
Little Angels
Chicken on her head

The Show Stoppers
Seeing as the Cutie Mark Crusaders tend to cause chaos wherever they go, Applejack decides its high time they had a place where they can do as they please without disturbing the populace.  And it just so happens that she had a treehouse when she was their age, so she bequeaths it to the CMC.  The Crusaders are less than impressed, since the house is in an active state of disrepair, but Applejack spins fixing it up as a way to earn their cutie marks.  Sometime later, Scootaloo finishes up a map of Ponyville and then takes off on her scooter, using her wings to power it and pulling off totally awesome tricks as she makes her way back to the clubhouse.  Apple Bloom is impressed by Scootaloo's scooter skills, but Scootaloo is equally impressed by how quickly Apple Bloom was able to fix up the treehouse.  And they're both impressed by Sweetie Belle's sweet singing, especially when she reveals that she was working on their official Cutie Mark Crusaders theme song.
Applejack checks in on the CMC and they share their plans with her: try anything and everything to get their cutie marks, which they make good on in a montage of failed attempts.  From slopping the hogs to styling hair to deep sea diving, nothing seems to work.  Their last stop: the library.  Seeing the girls buried in a mound of books, Twilight Sparkle suggests that their overall crusade style is flawed, and recommends they focus on the things they actually enjoy doing.  And Cheerilee, visiting with Twilight, just happens to have the perfect plan: they can appear in the school's upcoming talent show, with a chance of winning awards.  Already excited, the CMC run through all the various things they could do for the show (Juggling!  Tiger taming!  Square dancing!), only for Twilight to remind them of what she just said: things they're already good at.
With this in mind, the CMC gather their supplies: fabric from Rarity's shop (without her permission), a fan, planks and paint, and a book of ghost stories.  This all adds up to a dramatic showstopping number, complete with singing, dancing, costumes and scenery.  When it comes to divvying up the workload, however, Sweetie Belle defers from singing the lead, since she doesn't want to sing in front of a crowd, and she'd rather work on costumes, just like her big sister.  This also nets her scenery-making.  Apple Bloom calls for Scootaloo to figure out the choreography, since she's good at scooter tricks, but Scootaloo would rather sing the lead, and asks Apple Bloom to come up with the moves instead.  Apple Bloom agrees, seeing as kung fu is sort of like dancing.  And so the ponies get to work.
As the CMC prepare, they can each see where the others are lacking, yet none can see the obvious solution (that is, switch jobs).  Apple Bloom attempts to copy the spin Scootaloo showed her, and Sweetie Belle helps Scootaloo when she finds her lyric-writing skills lacking.  Sweetie Belle somehow manages to make a costume with five legs, and though dizzy, Apple Bloom is able to point out that using a dress form would have helped, and that the exceedingly brown scenery could have been avoided by rinsing the paintbrushes between colors.  Applejack once again checks in on the CMC and is stunned by their practice.  Before she can sneak off, the CMC corner her and ask for an assessment of their performance.  Scootaloo interprets Applejack's unwillingness to criticize as her being left speechless, and they high-five.
And so the night of the big talent show arrives.  Snips and Snails return for the first time since episode 6 to perform a magic act, and two new fillies, Peachy Pie and Sunny Days, recite their favorite poems while rollerskating.  Meanwhile, the CMC wait backstage for their turn, and Sweetie Belle explains the lore of "break a leg."  Twilight sneaks backstage to see how they're doing, but is bewildered when she hears who's doing what.  Before she can enlighten them, though, their number is called and the CMC take to the stage.
And what a performance it is.  Beyond Scootaloo's less-than-stellar singing, Apple Bloom's kung-fu-inspired "dancing," and Sweetie Belle's heavy-metal-esque costumes and make-up, the performance is riddled with snafus of missed cues, under-rehearsed missteps, and treacherous equipment.  Despite all this, the CMC eagerly await their applause at the end of the number, only to be met with laughter.  They slink off the stage, only to be told it's time to go back on for the presenting of the awards.
The girls try to keep to the back as Cheerilee hands out Best Magic Act to Snips and Snails (most likely "only magic act") and Best Dramatic Performance goes to Peachy Pie and Sunny Days.  Much to their amazement, the CMC actually win an award, Best Comedy Act!  The girls are overjoyed they won, but Sweetie Belle points out it would be even more awesome if they also got their cutie marks.  One quick check, though, and they're bummed out again, to Twilight's surprise.  They understand why they didn't get them, though, and tell Twilight that it's because they weren't doing following their true calling: comedy!  Twilight is taken aback by this colossal missing of the point, but by that point the other ponies attached to the CMC have arrived backstage to congratulate the little ponies, so Twilight just shakes it off with the knowledge that the CMCs will get it--eventually.

The middle part of this one bugged me due to the obviousness of the lesson to be learned, although the epic point-missing at the end kind of made up for it.  And the song is actually kind of catchy.  I'm glad that someone finally pointed out that just trying anything probably wasn't going to work, though one wonders how long their crusade is going to last.  It was good to see Snips and Snails again, especially since I've read some decents fics about them lately, and Sunny Days and Peachy Pie were cute, too.

Misc. Screenshots:
Scootaloo's singing has that effect
Giant squid
Writing it down
Twilight, unsure
Literally brought down the house

Episodes focusing on the CMC tend to be looked on less favorably, partly because they take the spotlight off of the main ponies, and partly because the CMC are younger and thus do things like not see the really obvious lesson right in front of them.  While this is true to kid behavior, it can get a little tedious.  But the CMC episodes do tend to do a bit more world building, especially on the younger side of things, so for that, I like them.  And the next slated CMC episode involves the main ponies telling the story of how they all got their cutie marks, so that is definitely a reason to be glad for them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode Sixteen

This episode manages to not only be a great Rarity episode, but a great Rainbow Dash one as well.  Lots of beautiful imagery in this one.
Sonic Rainboom
The episode opens with Rainbow Dash coaching Fluttershy on her cheering, but it seems to be a lost cause, as the softspoken pegasus can't get enough volume to make herself heard.  Rainbow Dash gives her the chance to practice as she runs through her routine for the upcoming Best Young Flyers competition:  fancy maneuvering, spinning clouds, and the elusive Sonic Rainboom.  While the first two go just fine, Rainbow Dash finds herself so unable to break the speed needed for the sonic rainboom, she is actually bounced back by the sound barrier.  She's flung all the way to Twilight Sparkle's treehouse, and right after she and the others put all the books away, too!  Rainbow Dash complains about a feeble performance, but she's referring to Fluttershy's cheering, not her own failure at the sonic rainboom.  She'd much rather have the rest of her friends come and cheer, but the competition is in Cloudsdale, and only pegasi can go there.  Pinkie Pie demonstrates her knowledge of the BYF competition, then admits she'd like to see Rainbow Dash perform a sonic rainboom, as Dash is rumored to be the only pegasus to actually create one.
Twilight, for all her studying, is clueless about the sonic rainboom, so Pinkie Pie fills her in: it's when a sonic boom and a rainbow occur at the same time, due to a fast-flying pegasus.  Rainbow Dash admits that she only did it once, back when she was just a filly, and isn't so sure she can pull it off again, though she puts on her usual bravado for her friends.  She wants to pull it off for her own sake, though, since it's a sure-fire winning move, and the grand prize is an entire day spent with the Wonderbolts!  She heads for home to rest up before the big contest, but orders Fluttershy to work on her cheering.  As she flies off, Fluttershy expresses her concern about Rainbow Dash's chances of actually doing a sonic rainboom.
With the two pegasi gone, Twilight starts cleaning up again, until Rarity prods her to find a spell to get them into Cloudsdale so they can help out Dash.  Applejack doesn't think Rainbow Dash needs their help, but Rarity, fashion show veteran that she is, knows stage fright when she sees it, and Dash was practically saturated in it.  She buttchecks Twilight, demanding she find a flight spell, but Twilight insists she can't find anything in this mess of books.  Pinkie Pie, though, is quick to pull out just the right book, right down to the page number.  Was it her Pinkie Sense again?  No, that book just happened to fall on her face when Rainbow Dash crashed into the room.  But the spell is exactly what they were looking for, one that will allow a pony to fly for three days.  It's such a high level that even Twilight doesn't think she can do it, but she will try.  Since she was so adamant that Twilight find the spell, Rarity volunteers to be the test subject, for Rainbow Dash's sake.  And so Twilight begins working on the spell, wrapping Rarity in a magical blue cocoon.  There's a burst of light, and.... it worked!
As they fly to Cloudsdale, Rainbow Dash tells Fluttershy that she needs to be more assertive, presumably to help with her cheering.  When they land, Rainbow Dash is immediately beset by three jerk ponies, old acquaintances of hers that waste no time reminding her that she's a flight school drop-out best known as Rainbow "Crash."  But when they doubt her ability to pull off the sonic rainboom, Fluttershy takes Dash's advice and speaks up for her friend, in her not-actually-that-assertive way.  The jerks promise to watch the competition and see Rainbow "Crash" fail, and fly off.  Fluttershy tries to put Rainbow Dash at ease, but ends up ramping up her tension instead.  Rainbow Dash starts to seriously freak out about everyone seeing her fail, so much so that she nearly misses the reveal of Rarity with wings!  And not just any old pegasus wings, but beautiful gossamer butterfly wings.  Both Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are left speechless by the sight, until Rarity mentions she's not the only one who came.  Right on cue, Twilight's hot air balloon breaks through the clouds, carrying Twilight, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie.
Rainbow Dash is overjoyed to see her friends came to cheer her on, and amazed that they can walk on the clouds, since only pegasus ponies are supposed to be able to do that.  Twilight explains that the wings spell was too difficult to attempt more than once, so she did a little research and found a spell to let ponies walk on clouds.  Since there's a little time before the competition, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy take the others on a tour of Cloudsdale, and while everyone oohs and aahs over the sight of the cloud city, Rarity oohs and aahs at the sight of her new wings.  And she's not the only one taken by them.  She gets catcalled by construction worker ponies(!), but she doesn't mind at all.  Twilight warns her to be careful, since the wings are very delicate, but Rarity isn't worried in the slightest.
The ponies head over to the weather factory, heading first to the snowflake room where Rarity's flapping causes an impromptu (and unwelcome) flurry.  Next stop, the rainbow falls.  Pinkie Pie takes a taste, but finds the flavor too intense, even for her.  The jerk pegasi show up again, having caught sight of Rarity and her wings.  They rib on Dash to just get herself some fancy wings if she wants to actually win, and fly off again.  Fluttershy tells her to pay them no mind, but Dash's confidence is pretty much nil at this point, especially thinking about Rarity's fancy wings compared to her own.  They move onto the steam room, where clouds are made, and Rarity picks up some more admirers.  Twilight admonishes Rarity for showing off so much, since it isn't helping Rainbow Dash any, but Rarity just pooh-poohs her, flying directly under the sun, and creating a lovely show of light.  Seeing this effect, she positively cackles with mad glee.  Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, has been reduced to a shivering pile of pony with nerves.  The other pegasus ponies tell Rarity that she should enter the competition, too, and Rarity, all the attention going to her head, agrees, to Rainbow Dash's great dismay.
At last, the time has come for the Best Young Flyers Competition.  As the crowd waits for the performances to get underway, Rainbow Dash paces and Rarity primps.  Princess Celestia makes her grand appearance, followed by the celebrity judges, the Wonderbolts, who bring in a little razzle dazzle with them.  The stage manager pegasus arrives backstage and starts queuing up the competitors.  Seeing that she's number two, Rainbow Dash panics, and clandestinely switches her number with number five.  She continues swapping numbers (and Rarity continues primping), until finally there's no one left to swap with.  And Rarity spent so long primping that the two of them have to go on at the same time.  And on top of that, Rarity switched out Rainbow Dash's rock soundtrack for a classical piece.
While Rarity swoops and twirls, Rainbow Dash struggles through her routine, muffing up the end of phase one right in front of the jerks.  She moves on to phase two, cloud spinning, as her friends cheer up a storm, but one of the clouds spins out of control, crashing right over Princess Celestia's seat.  Rarity, meanwhile, heads up for her grand finale, spreading her wings in front of the sun.  Rainbow Dash also heads up, to get the speed she needs for the sonic rainboom.  Rarity's lightshow is indeed impressive, but (and don't tell me you didn't see this coming) being that close to the sun fries her delicate wings in mere moments, sending her hurtling toward the ground!  The Wonderbolts take off to rescue her, but her flailing knocks them out as well, upping the count of falling ponies to four.
Hearing Rarity's screams, Rainbow Dash takes off after her, straining to fly fast enough to reach them all in time.  With the lives of her friend and her heroes on the line, Rainbow Dash finally finds the wherewithal to break the sound barrier, creating the fabled sonic rainboom for all of Cloudsdale to see.  While most ponies are left speechless, Fluttershy finds her cheering voice at last.  But not only did Rainbow Dash manage to create the sonic rainboom, she caught all four ponies in the very nick of time.  Back in the safety of the cloudeseum, Rainbow Dash is hailed as a hero, and proudly proclaims it the best day ever, her rainbow wake still twinkling in the sky.
Once things calm down a little, Rarity, now confined to the hot air balloon's basket, apologizes to everyone for getting so carried away.  She gives Rainbow Dash a special apology for being so thoughtless as to trample on her confidence, but Rainbow Dash figures that it all worked out for the best.  Her one regret is that she only got to meet her heroes when they were unconscious.  But fortunately for her, the Wonderbolts are now awake and have come to thank her in person.  That in and of itself would be enough to make Rainbow Dash's day, but it turns out she gets to spend all day with them, as Princess Celestia presents her with the grand prize for Best Young Flyer.  While Rainbow Dash tries to get all the "omigoshes" out of her system, Princess Celestia asks Twilight Sparkle for an in-person report, but Twilight passes the honor on to Rarity, who learned the big lessons this time around: don't go mad with power, and be there for your friends.  Rainbow Dash once again declares it the best day ever, but it gets even better when the jerk ponies from before show up to congratulate her and apologize for being jerks.  They invite her to hang out, but Rainbow Dash has more important things to do, like hang out with the Wonderbolts.  She flies off, hoof-in-hoof with two of the male members, into the sunset.

After a slightly disappointing episode, it was a relief to see this one, which more than made up for it.  Rarity was amusingly self-centered, her wings were suitably gorgeous, Rainbow Dash showed her more insecure side, plus there was more world building with Cloudsdale and the Weather Factory.  The jerk ponies were annoying, but since that was there purpose, I can't really be too annoyed by it.  Overall a very good episode.
At first, I was surprised that Rarity's costume was so over the top, especially after "Suited For Success," but then I remembered that the Best Young Flyers competition is essentially a stage show, which means her costume and make up have to be more intense than what she'd wear normally, since it has to be seen by everyone from a distance.  Good show, designers, good show.

Misc. Screenshots:
Rainbow Dash dreams
Granny Pegasus
Announcer Pegasus
Even ponies have gun shows
Fluttershy can't watch
Rainbow Dash hoisted on her friends' shoulders

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Episode Fifteen

I'm going to warn you, I really didn't care for this episode.  Watching it through the first time was fun, but once it was done, the whole just didn't add up to the sum of its parts for me.
Feeling Pinkie Keen
Twilight Sparkle and Spike are working on some advanced magic, but keep getting distracted by Pinkie Pie, who is darting around like a maniac with an umbrella hat on her head.   It's due to her tail being twitchy, which, as she informs Twilight and Spike, means something is about to fall from the sky.  She warns them to take cover, but Twilight scoffs; there's barely a cloud in the sky, so it can't be about to rain.  But Pinkie wasn't referring to rain, as she finds out when a frog lands right on her snout.  Strange weather conditions?  A sudden plague?  Actually, it was Fluttershy's doing, as she's transporting a bunch of frogs from the pond near her house to a bog on the other side of town.  She flies off sans one frog, and Twilight heads off to wherever Pinkie isn't to finish practicing.
Spike is agog over Pinkie's prediction skills, but Twilight chalks it up to coincidence, and scoffs at Pinkie's warning that her tail is still twitching.  It is, in fact, mid-scoff that she falls into a ditch, ending Pinkie's twitchy tail. Despite this, she's still not convinced of Pinkie Pie's powers, and tells this to Spike and Applejack (who happened to be in town).  Applejack, on the other hand, is more familiar with Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Sense," and warns Twilight to heed the warnings Pinkie gives.  And sure enough, Pinkie's ear start to flop around, signaling that someone is going to need a bath.  Twilight just laughs at this, only to get splashed by a passing cart.  At least Pinkie Pie's nice enough to let her use her bathtub.  As Twilight bathes, Pinkie explains the various little "senses" she gets and what they mean, such as a pinchy knee = something scary's about to happen, and an achy shoulder = alligator in the bathtub!  Twilight thinks that should have been a pinchy knee, but the alligator is actually Pinkie's pet, Gummy, who has no teeth and thus isn't that scary.
Still, Twilight just can't believe Pinkie can predict the future with her weird "senses," even when Pinkie points out that Twilight can do magic, and isn't that sort of the same thing.  But it isn't, Twilight insists, since magic is something that can be studied and practiced, and it happens for a definite reason, unlike Pinkie's crazy "senses."  Pinkie takes offense with Twilight's disparaging remarks, but only because she forgot to mention that sometimes it's a combination of things, not just one.  Such as an ear flop-eye flutter-knee twitch, which means "watch out for doors," as Twilight learns the hard way.  Faced with such a strange phenomenon, Twilight Sparkle turns to science to give her an answer, and hooks Pinkie Pie up to a device that measures...brain waves or something.  This will give her all kinds of scientific data to study on Pinkie's twitches, but of course, once Pinkie is all hooked up, she's got nothing.  Pinkie tells Twilight to just believe in the Pinkie Sense, even if she doesn't understand it, but Twilight refuses to believe in anything she cannot explain.  But with the device and data looking to be a big disappointment, Twilight unhooks Pinkie Pie, declaring that she doesn't need to know, nor does she even care, how this "Pinkie Sense" works.  But, naturally, once set free, Pinkie gets the "watch out for doors" combo and Twilight once again gets smashed.  Forget what she said earlier, she's now got a burning desire to figure out just how that darn "Pinkie Sense" works.
Since getting data through a machine didn't work, Twilight turns to secretly observing Pinkie in her natural habitat.  Down at the schoolyard, she spies Pinkie scratching her nose, then taking cover, and thinks she's disproven Pinkie's "sense," as a twitchy tail means something's about to fall, not an itchy nose.  But Twilight is in for a surprise when she's suddenly beset by a swarm of bees, the true object of Pinkie's sense.  One round of bandages later, and she's back on the trail, keeping an eye on Pinkie over at Sweet Apple Acres, with Spike by her side.  She observes the combo for "opening doors," and Spike goes into hiding, while Twilight teases him for actually falling for this stuff.  She tempts fate by hanging out by the barn's door, and when nothing happens, she feels vindicated, until she falls through the door of Applejacks new apple cellar.
Even broken bones are not enough to deter Twilight, and with a little help from Spike, she continues her observations.  She dictates her findings to Spike, but at the words "twitchy tail," he heads for the hills, leaving Twilight defenseless when she's suddenly struck by not just a flowerpot, anvil, and cart of hay, but a piano as well, courtesy of a certain wall-eyed pegasus muffing up a moving job.  Twilight apparently heals pretty quickly, as she's able to come out and confront Pinkie Pie when she hears the pink pony telling Applejack how she's been letting Twilight follow her all day.
Pinkie Pie's tail may be done twitching, but she suddenly begins to shudder and shake all over, a "sense" that she's never encountered before.  She guesses it means something that you'd never think would happen will happen, and apparently will happen at the bog where Fluttershy took all the frogs.  The others rush to make sure Fluttershy is okay, leaving Twilight alone as she tries to reassure them that Pinkie Pie's "shivers" don't mean anything at all.  But in order to prove it, she tags along with the others.  Down at the bog, Fluttershy lets the frogs loose as something sinister slithers in the background, unseen.  As the others enter the bog, Pinkie's shivers get stronger, and Spike wonders what kind of fate might befall Fluttershy (exploded, and then exploded again?).  It takes some searching, but eventually they come across Fluttershy, who is perfectly fine.  Twilight takes the opportunity to say "I told you so," which is exactly when the sinister slithering thing makes its appearance, wriggling up behind her.  Advised by the others to turn around, Twilight Sparkle comes face to face with a hideous hydra!
The ponies beat a hasty retreat, except Pinkie, who is too paralyzed and has to be grabbed by Twilight before she can make a run for it.  Fluttershy apologizes to the frogs as they hop away, and the hydra rises out of the bog to make chase.  The ponies are able to evade the heads, but just barely.  Spike gets stuck in the muck and is rescued by Twilight at the last moment, but luckily the hydra also gets bogged down in the same spot, giving the ponies a chance to get ahead.  Pinkie, however, is still shuddering as they reach a cliff.  There are enough stones to get across, but is there enough time?  Fluttershy remembers "a hop, skip, and a jump" from episode seven, and Twilight sends Spike across, but Pinkie's shuddering is too bad for her to jump, and so Twilight gears up to distract the hydra while Applejack makes it across with Pinkie Pie in tow.
Asking herself what Rainbow Dash would do in this situation (for some reason), she comes up with the obvious answer: CHARGE!  She manages to trick the hydra into incapacitating itself, but only for a moment, and not long enough for her to get to the stepping stones.  The hydra's heads lunge at her, knocking over most of the stones.  Pinkie Pie, still shuddering, calls for Twilight to jump, but Twilight just can't see how she could possibly make it (and can't muster up the concentration necessary to teleport, I guess).  But with no other choice, she takes the leap, helped out a bit by the hydra knocking the ledge she's standing on out, but she misses the first remaining stone by *that* much.  Falling to her doom, she lands on a rising bubble of swamp gas, which launches her back up to (relative) safety.  Twilight is ready to believe in Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Sense," after encountering a hydra and her miraculous rescue (after all, who would expect that), until Pinkie Pie starts shuddering again.
Hearing that the hydra wasn't it pushes Twilight over the edge, and she literally becomes a ponyta in her rage. The others cower, waiting to see what she'll do in this state, but just as suddenly as it flared, her anger fizzles out, and she admits that she gives up.  She can't understand how or why Pinkie Pie's "Pinkie Sense" works, but it does, and that's good enough for her.  As Twilight finally admits that she believes, Pinkie suddenly goes into overdrive, then suddenly stands still and tells them that that was it.  After all, who would have expected Twilight Sparkle to actually give up on trying to understand something?  With that solved, Pinkie Pie prances off, leaving the others dumbfounded.
Sometime later, Twilight Sparkle has Spike draft a letter to Princess Celestia, but first he has to get over the fact that she's given in to the "Pinkie Sense" and is giggling it up with Pinkie Pie, the two of them wearing umbrella hats.  The lesson this time: just because you don't understand something, doesn't make it not true, and you just have to choose to believe.  With the letter done, Twilight and Pinkie head off, wondering what will fall this time, but only Spike sees it: Princess Celestia, come to pick up the letter in person (for some reason).

So, this episode was pretty divisive among the fans.  A lot of people liked it because of the Looney Tunes-style slapstick and the action, but a lot of people hated it because it seemed to be punishing Twilight for seeking knowledge, and pushing a pro-ignorance message at the end.  According to Lauren Faust, the genesis of the episode was just the idea of Pinkie Pie having a "knee's achy, it's going to rain" thing, and Twilight not believing it, and the message was supposed to come off more as "keep an open mind" rather than "just believe it, even if it doesn't make sense."
While I'm not too crazy about this episode storywise, I have to give it props for the animation.  The expressions alone are pretty awesome in this ep, and the slapstick and action come across very well.  It's worth watching, but I don't think it'll make my top ten.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dan Vs. - Ye Old Shakespeare Theatre

I loved tonight's episode of Dan Vs., though I'm not sure if the best part was Phantom of the Opera Dan:
 Or Dread Pirate Roberts Elise:
And of course, all the Shakespeare quoting was pretty awesome, too.